Summer Growing, Stalker’s Day 12, Year of the Lion number 427
Hunger is a great motivator. And in a civilized world such as this, there are few opportunities to scavenge or hunt, as I am used to doing. While it may be tempting to sneak into a farm and make off with a chicken, I know that it just wouldn’t be right.
I see people working the fields, though I’m pretty sure their arrangement is similar to that of Vidoria on Griffin’s farm. I don’t want to indenture myself, but likewise, I don’t want to live on the charity of others. Is there a compromise? Is there a middle ground? What else is there?
This afternoon, I think I found an answer. Probably not be the only answer, but an answer nevertheless. As I was walking along the roadside toward Blushik, a place the locals referred to as a city, I caught up to a small trade caravan.
Four horse-drawn covered wagons escorted by six stout men carrying swords and longbows. Each wagon had a driver, and I could tell that there were others inside the wagons. As I approached, one of the men said, “Stand clear, stranger.” I’d learned enough of the human tongue to understand.
“I desire no hurt or theft,” I said. “I am curious. Please tell me about yourself.”
“I am in the service of Lena Prengood, the master of this caravan. Address your questions to her.” Upon overhearing this exchange, a woman riding in the second wagon yelled “Halt!” All four wagons and the six horsemen stopped. The woman jumped down from the back of the wagon and walked over to me. She was dressed in the finest cottons and leathers and wore very sparkly gems hanging from her ears and from a golden chain around her neck. She also had thin gold and silver bands around her wrists that jingled slightly as she walked.
“I am Lena,” she said. “Who are you and why have you slowed us?”
“My name is M’Raana Kabize of the Vipertree Clan, Daggerclaw, Czethai. I am a traveler and wanderer, and I am curious about you and your kind.”
“Well, M’Raana Kabize of the Vipertree Clan,” she said, speaking in my native language. “We are travelers as well. We transport exotic goods from distant places to trade and sell.” She spoke Tabaxian clearly, but with an obvious accent. I was impressed.
I continued speaking in the human language, however. “I am poor and hungry, yet I do not seek charity nor do I wish to steal. I am young and willing to work, if there is something I can do.”
“As a trader in exotics, I always have my eye out for interesting things. First, I notice the armor you wear on your shoulders. The shell of a giant spitting beetle? And also, you carry something magical in your pack. Something with very powerful Abjuration magic, if I’m not mistaken. This is why I stopped.” While she continued talking in my language, the word she used, “Abjuration,” was unfamiliar to me.
“Magic?” I reached into my pack and pulled out the plaque and held it out to her.
“Ah… A dragon card. I’ve seen these before, but not this one. White number four. How did you come by this artifact?” She did not take or touch the plaque.
“My father traded for it a couple months ago, back in our settlement.”
“Do you mind?” She pulled a small round bauble from a pouch and mumbled a few strange words. She held the bauble over my card as she did this, while gesticulating with her other hand. After a moment, she gazed into the bauble as if reading a book, but I could see no words on the tiny thing. “Ah. Very nice. It makes sense for a white dragon. It seems that whenever you strike something, you inflict additional cold damage. However, I notice how you wear leathers and your fur hasn’t shed your winter coat. Carrying this card makes you feel cold.”
“What? How do you know this?” I realized that what she said made sense. The day I had the card with me working in the field I felt no discomfort from the hot sun. Yet, the days I worked with the card stored in the box, I needed the hat and the lose clothing.
“I have many talents, Kabize.” She knew that Kabize is my given name. She does know our culture. “Among them, the mysteries of magic, though I am no master. You seem resourceful and clever, and in the world of humans, elves, and dwarfs, you are something exotic. I shall not presume to take ownership of you, as I do not believe in slavery, but I will offer you a position working for me. I think you will find it most equitable, unlike the laborers who work the fields in these farms. Come. Sit with me in my wagon as we ride toward Blushik. I wish to learn more about you and what you have to offer. I will pay you generously for your stories.”
I rode with Lena the rest of the day as we traveled westward. She was very kind, but insisted I tell her everything. I even showed her this journal as well as the other book I started where I drew the image of my card. At the end of the day, with the four wagons arranged around a clearing, Lena handed me five silver coins. I learned that one silver coin was equal to ten copper coins. When she gave me these, she had in her pouch other coins as well, including several made from gold. By comparison, one gold coin was worth one hundred copper coins. Wow! Furthermore, when she shared the evening meal and offered me a pallet to sleep on, she insisted there was no charge, nor would there be as long as I remained with her group.
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